Sample Individual Fellowship Applications Now Available

As described in an earlier post, NIGMS supports several kinds of individual predoctoral fellowships for advanced Ph.D. or M.D-Ph.D. students.

To assist trainees in developing their applications, several investigators have graciously agreed to let us share their successful predoctoral F31 applications on our Web site. Some parts of these applications have been redacted to protect personal and other private information.

Please note that the investigators provided these applications for nonprofit educational uses only. The applications may not be changed, and the investigator and grantee institution should be credited as the source of this material. As we fund additional fellowships, we may post more samples for educational use.

For additional information about our F30 and F31 programs, please refer to the NIGMS NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowships Web page or contact fellowship coordinator Peggy Schnoor.

I hope you find these sample fellowship applications useful, and I welcome your suggestions about other training tools or resources we can offer.

Attend or Watch Online: Medical Scientist Training Program 50th Anniversary Symposium

NIGMS Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) 50th anniversary symposiumThis year is the 50th anniversary of the NIGMS Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), which supports research training leading to the combined M.D.-Ph.D. (or other dual) degree. Starting with only three institutions and a handful of supported students, the program has grown to 45 institutions and more than 900 trainees per year.

We’re marking this milestone year with a symposium on Thursday, July 17, from 8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD. The event will feature remarks by NIH Director Francis Collins and Association of American Medical Colleges President and CEO Darrell Kirch as well as talks by seven current and former MSTP trainees.

Although the symposium is free, we would like participants to register to attend. If you can’t join us in person, you can watch the event live online.

Plans for a scholarly article highlighting the history of the MSTP are under way. If you have comments, anecdotes, historical data, photos or other relevant images, please let us know by writing a note in the comments box on the meeting registration site or by sending me an e-mail message.

New Mechanism to Support Research Educational Activities

As part of our efforts to develop and sustain a highly skilled and diverse biomedical research workforce, we have introduced a new mechanism to complement or enhance research training activities. The Innovative Programs to Enhance Research Training (IPERT) will support creative and innovative research educational activities through courses for skills development, structured mentoring activities and outreach programs.

We expect the scope, purpose and objectives of IPERT applications to be as varied as the potential applicants. Both institutions and organizations are eligible to apply.

An IPERT program should address a documented need, problem or challenge in research training and include measurable goals and objectives. Applications should explain the balance of effort and resources dedicated to each activity and how the activities will integrate. Proposals should also align with the NIGMS Strategic Plan for Biomedical and Behavioral Research Training, which recognizes that:

  • Research training is a responsibility shared by NIH, academic institutions, faculty and trainees.
  • Research training must focus on student development, not simply the selection of talent.
  • Breadth and flexibility enable research training to keep pace with the opportunities and demands of contemporary science and provide the foundation for a variety of scientific career paths.
  • Diversity is an indispensable component of research training excellence and must be advanced across the entire research enterprise.

The IPERT program may be of particular interest to institutions and organizations with current or past support from the MARC Ancillary Training Activities program (T36), which has lapsed and will not be reissued. Conference and meeting programs previously supported by the T36 mechanism may be more appropriately supported through the NIH conference grant mechanism (R13/U13).

While a letter of intent is not required, we strongly encourage anyone who is interested in submitting an IPERT application to consult with me or other staff of the NIGMS Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity to determine if this is the best mechanism to support their ideas and plans.

NIGMS Participation in Additional NIH Individual Predoctoral Fellowship Programs

We are now supporting two additional Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award individual predoctoral fellowships in basic biomedical sciences relevant to our mission: the F30 fellowship for M.D.-Ph.D. or other dual-doctoral degree students and the F31 fellowship for Ph.D.-degree students. We will continue our support of the F31 fellowship to promote diversity in health-related research.

NIGMS predoctoral fellowships, which generally provide up to 3 years of support, promote fundamental, interdisciplinary and innovative research training and career development leading to independent scientists who are well prepared to address the nation’s biomedical research needs.

An applicant for an NIGMS predoctoral fellowship should:

  • Be an advanced Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D. student.
  • Demonstrate high academic performance in the biomedical sciences and independence in his or her research.
  • Have identified a research sponsor and a dissertation project that includes a novel approach to the problem and has strong training potential.
  • Demonstrate a commitment to a career as an independent scientist.

We expect the funding for F30 and F31 fellowships to be highly competitive, and we anticipate funding only a very limited number of these applications in any year.

We will give priority to outstanding applicants with sponsors who are currently supported by NIGMS research grants. In addition, we strongly encourage F30 applications from students in combined M.D.-Ph.D. (or other dual-doctoral degree, such as D.O.-Ph.D., D.D.S.-Ph.D. and D.V.M.-Ph.D.) programs at institutions that are not currently supported by our Medical Scientist Training Program.

For more details on F30 and F31 awards, see the NIGMS NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowships Web page or contact Peggy Schnoor.

Give Input on Training Activities Relevant to Data Reproducibility

Data reproducibility is getting a lot of attention in the scientific community, and NIH is among those seeking to address the issue Exit icon. At NIGMS, one area we’re focusing on is the needs and opportunities for training in areas relevant to improving data reproducibility in biomedical research. We just issued a request for information to gather input on activities that already exist or are planned as well as on crucial needs that an NIGMS program should address.

I strongly encourage you and your colleagues to submit comments by the February 28 deadline Exit icon. The information will assist us in shaping a program of small grants to support the design and development of exportable training modules tailored for graduate students, postdoctoral students and beginning investigators.

UPDATE: NIGMS and additional NIH components have issued the Training Modules to Enhance Data Reproducibility (R25) funding opportunity announcement. The application deadline is November 20.

T32 Application Changes

NIH has issued a new parent announcement for the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Institutional Research Training Grant (T32) that incorporates many of the “mandatory special requirements” previously in an NIGMS T32 predoctoral grant application. As a result, eligible institutions applying for an NIGMS training grant with a due date on and after January 25, 2014, will no longer need to include this material as a separate section at the end of the background section but should instead address each of these requirements throughout the document.

Changes in the new T32 announcement are based on recommendations of the Biomedical Workforce Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH. As stated in a related NIH Guide notice, T32 programs are now encouraged to make available career development advising as well as learning opportunities so that trainees obtain a working knowledge of various potential career directions and of the steps required to transition successfully to their next career stage.

NIGMS-funded predoctoral training programs should provide support for trainees in their early years (e.g., years 1-3) to prepare them for subsequent, more differentiated research and for a variety of research careers. NIGMS predoctoral T32 programs are not intended to support students in the dissertation/independent phase of their doctoral research training.

Each NIGMS T32 application must clearly:

  • State the objectives of the proposed program and how they are distinct from or relate to other training programs at the same institution.
  • Identify the faculty involved, describe their roles and responsibilities, and indicate whether they participate in other training programs at the same institution.
  • Demonstrate access to a pool of highly promising scholars, including those who are underrepresented in the biomedical and behavioral sciences and individuals with disabilities.

In addition, NIGMS strongly encourages its programs to develop mathematical fluency among all trainees by integrating quantitative biology and/or advanced statistical approaches. NIGMS also expects funded training programs to evolve in response to changes in the field of science and to respond effectively to student needs and outcomes. The Institute is always interested in innovative approaches to training that will prepare a strong and diverse biomedical and behavioral research workforce for the 21st century.

For more details, see our predoctoral T32 training grant Web page, which includes a link to slides on NIGMS predoctoral training program guidelines for 2014, as well as our postdoctoral T32 information. Prospective applicants are welcome to contact me or one of my colleagues who manage training grants with questions, comments or suggestions.

Encouraging the Use of Individual Development Plans

Strategic Plan for Biomedical and Behavioral Research TrainingMany of the themes in our strategic plan for research training have been echoed by the Biomedical Workforce Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH. Among these is the use of individual development plans (IDPs) to facilitate career development discussions and planning between mentees and mentors. I’m delighted to share some progress on this front.

A recent NIH Guide notice encourages institutions to:

  • Develop an institutional policy requiring an IDP for every graduate student and postdoctoral scientist supported by any NIH grant, and

For more details, read this blog post from NIH’s Sally Rockey.

The Blueprint for Implementation of our training strategic plan provides links to resources for developing IDPs, including AAAS’s myIDP Exit icon Web site. Another source of useful tips is a presentation on “Facilitating Career Development through Individual Development Plans” Exit icon given by Philip Clifford of the Medical College of Wisconsin at our recent Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity Program Directors’ meeting.

IDPs are a valuable tool to help graduate students and postdocs identify their career goals and what they need to accomplish to achieve those goals. They are one part of the changing conversations about preparing trainees for the broader landscape of exciting biomedical careers.

Networking Theme for 2013 Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity Program Directors’ Meeting

TWD Program Directors' MeetingA goal of our Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity (TWD) is to create a community of trainers and educators dedicated to developing a well-prepared, diverse biomedical research workforce.

Toward that end, the focus of this year’s TWD Program Directors’ Meeting Exit icon is on networking. The meeting, to be held on June 12-14 in Chicago, will address the value of sustained networking among the grantees, students and other communities served by these programs. The meeting will enable program directors to learn more about other TWD programs; establish connections with potential new partners, especially regional “neighbors”; and collectively address the Institute’s research training objectives.

Plenary sessions and keynote talks will cover the diversity of the U.S. research workforce, STEM training in the context of NIH-funded biomedical and behavioral research, and innovative approaches for evaluating and assessing our training programs. NIGMS and NIH leaders will give overviews of the Institute’s training strategic plan and the implementation of the report from the Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH.

The meeting is primarily intended for program directors and associate deans (or the equivalent) at institutions with these TWD student and predoctoral training programs: Bridges to the Baccalaureate, Bridges to the Doctorate, IMSD, IRACDA, MARC T36, MARC U-STAR, RISE, PREP, NIGMS T32 predoctoral programs and IDeA INBRE.

Online registration is open now at www.TWDNIGMS.org Exit icon and closes May 10, 2013.

Give Input on NIH Biomedical Research Workforce Plans

The report of the Biomedical Research Workforce Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH, includes recommendations that could have a broad impact on NIGMS training programs.

NIH has just issued a request for information (RFI) on implementing the working group’s recommendations. As summarized in a blog post by NIH’s Sally Rockey, the RFI seeks your input on these topics:

  • Developing individual development plans (IDPs) for those in graduate and postdoctoral training supported by NIH funds from any source,
  • The length of time NIH should provide support for graduate students,
  • Providing more uniform benefits packages for postdocs,
  • Gathering information about individuals receiving NIH support for their training,
  • Reporting by institutions of aggregate career outcomes of graduate students and postdocs on a public Web site,
  • Considering multiple career outcomes as indicators of success when reviewing training grants, and
  • Launching a dialogue with the extramural biomedical research community to assess how NIH supports the biomedical community, including faculty salaries.

I strongly encourage you and your colleagues to submit comments by the April 22 deadline, because your input is key to developing policies that serve the scientific community and improve the training experience of graduate students and postdocs.

Aligning Training

As the new deputy director of the Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity, my main focus is on the Institute’s training activities. It is an exciting time to join the Institute and help implement its strategic plan for biomedical and behavioral research training.

One of my first tasks after coming to NIGMS was to work with Institute staff and leadership to address a key action item in the strategic plan to “examine and adjust the allocation of NIGMS training resources across and within scientific areas and institutions.” Since NIGMS supports about half of the predoctoral institutional training program (T32) positions funded by NIH, our policies have a broad impact.

The Institute has always looked at a number of issues in addition to priority scores to identify which training programs to support and works to allocate funds on a fair, equitable and well-justified basis. Following extensive analyses and discussions of the current distribution of training resources, which began well before my arrival, we intend to be more proactive in aligning our funding decisions with our priorities. Some of the additional factors we will consider are whether programs:

  • address training in new and emerging areas of science,
  • have been highly successful in enhancing diversity,
  • have effectively leveraged slots to impact the overall institutional program,
  • are at institutions that do not currently receive NIGMS T32 support, and/or
  • explore models for training that are fundamentally different from our existing programs.

The realignment process will take place over the next several years and, in some cases, may gradually impact the size of existing training grants. We anticipate that this more goal-driven approach to funding will make the overall impact of our training programs even stronger, and in this way, further enhance the quality of biomedical research training.

I welcome your comments on this blog or directly to me at alison.hall@nih.gov.